I dedicate this column to the social work graduating class of 2022 across this nation and around our globe. As president of NASW and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) North American Region, I bring greetings from the boards, staff and members of both organizations. We applaud you as you embark upon the rich and challenging journey of social work.
Personally, I hope you will join and maintain your membership in the largest professional social work association in the world, NASW. By doing so, you commit to be an active, vibrant member who will work with the association to achieve its program goals.
Some of you most likely have carefully laid plans, while others look forward to the natural unfolding of life and the opportunities therein. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum from planner to spontaneous purpose-seeker, I want to remind you that our profession’s greatness is marked by courage, sacrifice, and the determination to advocate for racial, social, cultural, economic, environmental, political, and spiritual justice for all.
Success in this field is not marked by how much money you make, but rather by the deliberate and intentional actions you take to improve the quality of life for others. Good social work is measured by our daily efforts to undo the harmful impacts of unjust systems and deeply entrenched beliefs.
A career in social work is filled with opportunities to create context for hope, empowerment, equity and liberation. Your success will be defined by how well you establish unlikely partnerships and cultivate unexpected allies.
In every room and situation in which you find yourself, you will show others what the social work profession is and why social workers are essential to the global community. Through your commitment to social justice, your respect for human relationships, your dedication to promoting the worth and dignity of all human beings, the importance you place on integrity and competence, and your ability to be a disrupter, you will dispel misperceptions that our profession upholds the status quo. You will solidify our collective knowing that the social work profession continues to evolve with the needs of each generation and to perfect its strategic approaches for quality care and liberation.
To be an active part of our vibrant and evolving profession, you will:
- Support criminal justice reform;
- Help create equity for all people;
- Advocate for the reproductive rights of women;
- Champion the issues of the LGBTQAI+ community;
- Call attention to the endless cycle of voter suppression in Black and Brown communities; and
- Embrace the profession’s Code of Ethics and take the necessary actions to eradicate racism, sexism, ageism, classism, homophobia, misogyny Islamophobia, and all other forms of hate and discrimination.
As a social worker, your work will be shaped by complex and sometimes conflicting external influences for the duration of your career.
It is my greatest hope that as your own personal and professional spheres of influence broaden, you will remain grounded in the fundamental awareness of what defines you as a social worker.
It is not merely how well you know the DSM-5 or the professional jargon that distinguishes our profession. It is not simply understanding the unrelenting effects of institutional racism and oppression—or perfecting the posture of an anti-racist ally. It is a commitment to make the necessary changes that empower those we serve with dignity and respect.
Your place in the social work profession is not defined by your degree or subsequent succession of licenses and credentials. Instead, your enduring commitment to the values of the social work profession will distinguish you.
So, as you go forward to challenge and change the world, vow to forever be students of the clients you serve. Commit to disrupting systems that leave some left out and afraid. Stand poised against oppressive practices and protest abuse and injustice wherever you see it. Hold space for populations steeped in shame and guilt. Finally, see and foresee the good in everyone.
Congratulations and welcome to the profession!
Contact Mit Joyner at firstname.lastname@example.org